‘NDA not on the brink’

Print edition : May 17, 2013

BJP national president, Rajnath Singh. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Interview with Rajnath Singh, BJP president.

DESPITE the Janata Dal (United)’s threat to walk out of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is projected as its prime ministerial candidate, BJP president Rajnath Singh remains confident that nothing will break the alliance, not even Modi’s candidature. “The BJP is the most secular party in this country and that includes Narendra Modi. Godhra alone cannot make Modi communal,” he told Frontline in an interview.

Ever since the JD(U) made it clear at its National Executive meeting that Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee was not acceptable to its leadership, the NDA has appeared to be on the brink of a break-up. Is it true or is it just media hype?

Nothing can be further from the truth. There is no crisis in the NDA, it is not going to break up. We are confident that there is no issue that cannot be resolved through dialogue and consultation. We have worked closely with the Janata Dal (U) for 17 years and even now we are running a successful coalition government, which is delivering on many fronts, in Bihar. I don’t think such a long partnership will get jeopardised so easily. As far as we are concerned, we do not want the JD(U), or any of our other allies, to break away. We will try our best to keep the NDA united.

When it comes to the crunch, if the NDA’s unity is threatened, will you drop Modi’s candidature?

Why should we even think that it will come to the crunch? Why should we even assume that Modiji’s or anybody else’s candidature, for that matter, will break the NDA?

So it means that Modi could be projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate?

That is an issue to be decided by the BJP’s Central Parliamentary Board.

The JD(U) has made it clear in its political resolution that the prime ministerial nominee should have impeccable secular credentials. Do you think Modi has secular credentials?

The BJP is the most secular party in this country and that includes Narendra Modi. Just because of one Godhra he does not become communal. If that is the criteria, then the Congress is the most communal party in the country. The party has ruled the country for the longest period, for over 55 years, but it has never tried to work for communal harmony. The Congress has always resorted to vote-bank politics or unabashed appeasement of Muslims. It has followed divisive politics. The maximum number of riots have taken place during Congress rule. On the other hand, our politics is integral humanism. We believe in justice for all and appeasement of none, and that, I think, is real secularism.

You consider Modi to be secular but the JD(U) does not. This is creating an impression that a parting of ways is imminent. The JD(U) has given you time till December.

December is a long way off. The BJP’s Parliamentary Board will take a call on this issue very soon. It will meet after the Karnataka elections, most probably by the end of May.

Do you think the NDA will be substantially weakened if the JD(U) walks out?

I am not even thinking that they will walk out. Why should they when we have worked so well all these years. What the JD(U) finally does is up to it, but I will try my best to keep the NDA united.

It has demanded that the name of the prime ministerial candidate be announced by December.

That will be decided only after the Parliamentary Board meeting. As the BJP president, I will take a call only after holding consultations with all senior leaders.

You are not ruling out the possibility of Modi’s nomination?

There is no doubt that Narendra Modi is a very popular leader. He has given a good model of governance in Gujarat and he has provided good leadership so far. But this [choosing the prime ministerial nominee] is a process to be decided by the party’s Parliamentary Board and I am not going to pre-empt that process. We have many leaders who are capable of giving good governance. Our governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are doing equally well and our programmes and policies have been well accepted by the people there. If we are making a bid for power, it is based not only on the negatives of the UPA government, but on the many positives on our part as well.

Have you spoken to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar or JD(U) president Sharad Yadav?

Not with Nitishji, but yes, I have spoken to Mr Sharad Yadav. It was an informal meeting. I see no problem anywhere and I am confident things will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. The NDA will emerge stronger in the days to come.